Marketing Technology (MarTech in marketing geek-speak) in general is evolving quickly, especially its sub-category Marketing Artificial Intelligence (AI), which is getting a lot of (digital) ink lately.
As it should: See the Google Trends screenshot showing searches for "Marketing AI" taking a huge leap upwards in 2016. Search volume for the phrase has maintaining a high level since then. Interest is strong.
At the same time the ocean of interest in Marketing AI is swelling, perception is shifting in ways that signal a shift in the tide. Marketers and business leaders can avoid getting stranded on a sandbar of outdated thinking by paying close attention to these 3 trends:
1- The fallacy that you can market effectively without respecting the end-customer is unraveling.
Colorful charts and "impressive" data sets of seemingly endless variables for targeting customers had formed an ugly veil, insulating the perspective of the customer from marketers hungry for their data.
Unfortunately for these marketers, the end-customer has the power in the relationship. Only marketing that is designed from the end-customer point of view can minimize waste and maximize profits.
The end customer sets the value of media with their time and attention just as customers of a service business set the value with their money. Many have missed that it's about the relationship, not just the data. In personal relationships, snooping shows you also don't trust yourself. Marketing based on snooping conveys a lack of confidence in what your company offers.
More than that, the customer is pushing back, providing a cause for politicians who will take up the sword and scales for their privacy-sensitive constituents or political gain. Big tech players are (in some cases) reluctantly admitting they can't continue to betray their users and get away with it.
- As per Cointelgraph, lawmakers are starting to crack down on privacy invasive big tech.1
- Apple feels it needs to show a stronger stance on user privacy. So, iOs 13 is cutting user tracking dramatically2.
- Google is backing off on invasive targeting as well: 3rd party cookies - central to many methods of online tracking - are going away on Chrome, following the lead of other major browsers34.
This is further supported by studies that demonstrate following customers with ads gives them a distaste for a brand. Conversely, putting what prospects want first by listening to and serving their learning needs about what you sell gives them positive feelings about a brand.
Marketers have all the more reason to focus more on inbound marketing that doesn’t require harvesting personal data as the backlash against privacy breaching targeting grows.
Prospects are already searching to learn about what you sell. Get in front of that and you don't have to use manipulative or invasive marketing.
It's time for Marketing AI to adapt with tools enabling respectful enhanced listening to customers wants and their higher thinking to learn insights that can drive innovation and growth. Listen to them to discover what they want - including what they want to learn when researching what you sell. This contrasts starkly with AI that aims more at targeting them using invasive data methods.
The principle is simple: marketing technology needs to be designed from the end customer point of view to serve them. Instead of targeting them, target what they want - and that which they would love but can't conceive yet - to better give it to them.
And give them what they want - or would love - wrapped in a high impact message, because ...
2- Internet media is easier and more accessible than ever. Standing out requires a distinctive, creative, leading message. Human creativity is the edge.
With more tools enabling easier creation of digital media and more accessible management of online marketing, the internet is growing crowded with nice looking websites and fully fleshed-out content programs. Internet Live Stats counts over 1.7 billion websites as I write this6.
This means an attractive web presence and regular posting isn't enough anymore. To market effectively, you need to craft a strategic, well-structured, customer-centered thought leadership position then promote it well.
In short, with media and methods getting easier, there's little opportunity for competitive advantage with either. The way to get noticed and convert attention to business is with a creative leading message. Otherwise, you get lost in the mix.
That need for an original message is driving demand for the creative thinking that generates innovative new answers to the questions customers ask online when researching before a purchase.
Bot writing looks less appealing in that light. This shifts the perceived role of MarTech, especially AI, in the minds of those who were looking to delegate writing and content generation to machines, hence ...
3- More Are Learning AI is Our Partner, Not Our Replacement.
Content Marketing Institute called out the "Tech Debt" created with AI5 in stating, “If leadership drives purchasing decisions over something they don’t fully understand, they might expect marketing automation to happen with a push of a button. That occurs when they’re operating on the logic that machines are going to replace people.”
As the belief in AI-assisted automation as a replacement for humans is revealed as dysfunctional, it can yield to a more empowering view of AI as an instrument to extend humans and free up more resources for human creativity.
The unraveling fallacy here is that AI can think and replace people. Instead, it needs to be a tool for them to extend their capabilities and access to information. It should help them more quickly and easily access the states of inspirational creativity that make us different from machines. Hence why the terms extended intelligence and augmented cognition might be more appropriate than artificial intelligence.
There is a ton of backlash against the abuse of technology. And we are starting to see small signs of that system crashing as a result. It is driving alternative ways of using marketing technology that respect the point of view of the end user.
It is fortunate that marketing technology can also be used to serve the end-user by being designed from the customer perspective. Then the marketers can feel good about their work because it helps rather than manipulates.
I've heard more than one data-targeting marketer admit they feel what they do is "creepy". When you creatively lead the recipient to a better outcome, that guilt can change to conviction and satisfaction.
In addition, the realization that AI is an extension of people rather than a replacement for them opens up possibilities for it supporting the human creativity necessary to develop distinctive leadership positions that benefit customers and enable companies to create and own niches.
Owned niches bring riches.
Isn't marketing more effective when you have prospects delighted at learning how to get more value out of what you sell as opposed to feeling aggravated and harassed by being followed by ads?
Written by Chris McNeil
Founder of Thaut and 5th Level Web
2. Apple Insider
4. Investing UK
5. Content Marketing Institute
6. Internet Live Stats
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